Exploits of the Chalet Girls (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Slowly, interspersed with many other books, I'm re-reading my way through the lengthy Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer which I thoroughly enjoyed in my teens. I have about half of them in hardback; the rest are in a somewhat abridged Armada paperback form.

The last one I read was 'The Chalet School and Jo', back in February. I decided to leave out the eighth in the series (Chalet Girls in Camp) since I remember finding it fairly dull many years ago. So this week I re-read 'Exploits of the Chalet Girls', which follows on immediately afterwards.

Jo Bettany is still head girl of the Austrian boarding school started a few years previously by her sister Madge Russell. In this volume, an Annexe to the school has been started higher up in the mountains, closer to the big TB sanatorium where Madge's husband Jem works.

The main feature of school life this Autumn term is the arrival of a new girl called Thekla who is extremely snobbish. One wonders why her parents - who presumably inculcated her into this mindset - sent her to a democratic school where people of all backgrounds, races and classes mix happily. She upsets several people by her attitude, which was perhaps a believable one in the 1940s when this was written; she seems like rather a strange caricature today.

Thekla gradually settles in and becomes less objectionable, although there's no particular incident that makes this happen. Indeed, she seems rather pushed to the background after her unfortunate start. Perhaps there is more of her story in the original; this Armada version is basically a fairly run-of-the-mill school story, with the usual pranks, snow fights, staff evenings and Christmas pageant (with far too much detail).

I do like these books, but should probably pick and choose which ones I re-read in future. 'Exploits of the Chalet Girls' isn't currently in print, although it can often be found second-hand. I wouldn't particularly recommend it, except for those reading or re-reading the entire set.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 3rd April 2010

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